Goa and Kochi, Kerala
12.30.2007 - 01.07.2008 89 °F
Happy New Year!
Wishing you all the best for 2008!
We made it to Goa safe and sound and spent 3 hard, excruciating days laying on the beach
and sunbathing for a good 5-7 hours. Don't worry, it was not all just fun and games. We also had a strict schedule of when to flip over and when to get a nice cold drink. Ha aha! Then New Years day (have to start the New Years, right?) we decided to get an ayurvedic massage for all our hard work. It was an hour and half, about $12, with a deep tissue massage with soothing oils. Who would know that I was really tight in some areas (my calves) from not doing anything all day?
Goa, or as many people call it, is "not really India." Its FULL of Westerners and tourism and is known for its party scene and beaches. The beach we were at, Palolem, supposedly the nicest in Goa, was no Thailand, but pretty nice. It has the usual beach vendors selling everything from shawls to CD's and the random people that would just stand there and gawk at you - but hey, thats India! It adds character to the beach scene. We thought to come here, the party center of India, to celebrate New Years. We ended up at Dancing Shiva's and after a few drinks realized it was getting closed to midnight. We didn't notice much of a change (people looking at their watches, music stopping, etc) and decided to follow some people heading to the beach (the bar we were at was a little off). There were fireworks all along the beach,
which was nice. Then I looked at my watch. 12:00. Then 12:01. Then 12:02. Where is the countdown? Realizing that there probably wasn't going to be one and realizing that I have to have a countdown, Char and I did our own, which was a little anti-climatic, but whatever. Then we went back to the bar for some more drinks and chit-chat with some people we met, and well, when I started falling asleep while talking to someone, it was time to go, ha ha! And sorry to say, thats not the 1st time that has happened! Oops! But yes, it was really fun. So all we saw in Goa was Palolem beach and Palolem town, which had some really nice shops. It was funny, just past the cute beach bungalows by the beach, one commonly sees pigs and cows milling about, and well, sometimes the cows are the ones that you have to get around to get that seat you want!
But a beach is a beach, and it was super relaxing. I plowed through 2 books, which was good!
Here is a pict of our place, with the cute x-mas decorations:
And of course, sunset in Goa:
Have I mentioned how great the food is?!?! Ohh myyyy gawd! Goa is especially known for its delicious seafood, and I can't agree more. Yummmmy! Besides the awesome variety of vegetarian food, they also have Indian-Chinese food, which sounds funny, but I like better than real Chinese food. Its less oily with a little spice. But here in Goa, you actually chose the fish you want to eat (me, knowing nothing about 'proper fish selection' pretty much just chose the smallest, because it would be cheaper). Its all fresh and amazing!
Then.... sniff sniff, Char left to go back to Chicago... Here is a pict of our last dinner (I have to kindly draw attention to our nice tans, ha ha!):
At first, it was very very weird. Literally, for the last 4 months, starting with Lauren, then Lauren and Char, then Char, we practically spend every minute together. So as Char pulled out of the driveway and the super nice reception all waved her off, I first thought, "now what? What do to? Its just me now." Well, one of the first thing you realize traveling by yourself is that it gets SUPER expensive. You're not sharing and splitting costs. The 2nd thing is you don't have someone to talk to about stupid things that we always got a laugh at (BM's). BUT, what I soon realized is that its kinda easier to meet people? I don't know if it was me being alone and wanting to talk that I'm more direct, or other people feeling sorry for me, OR people talking to me out of curiousity of why I am married and traveling by myself? Who knows! And yes, I did say Married. Married? Yes, married! Married? Yes, Married! (thats a reference Sixteen Candles, for those of you that didn't get it!). In Bangkok, Char and I got wedding rings to use in Nepal and India to ward off any unwanted attention and to look "unavailable." Well, in Nepal it kinda turned against us, long story but Char, you know what i'm talking about! So we took them off. And now with just me, I put it back on, and it has also backfired with people I didn't want to ward off. So it was about to come off, but then it really came in handy so I'm just going to leave it on. Who knows anyway about this whole ring theory.
Anyway, here's an example of how the best part of traveling is the people you meet: I met someone really friendly in my train compartment on the way to Kochin, Kerala (then later his friend). I met someone while I am checking in the homestay. I met someone randomly on the street. This is all say, within an hour or so. Before you know it, we are all having dinner and then drinks together. Then coffee and dessert at a coffee house (sound familiar?). I met them all individually, and yet, we all got along so well it might as well been like hanging out with any of my friends at home. So fun!
Since I was to be in Kerala for literally 24 hours on the button, I had to move quickly. Luckily, Cochin and Fort Cochin are small enough that it is easily walkable and mangeable. And thanks to my new friends that kindly escorted me, it was even that much easier. Kochi or Cohin, is a cute little town with a cluster of islands and peninsulas, and has a rich history of maintaining ancient western influence because of the former Portuguese and British colonization. Just like Macau, China, its always cool to see these things in a place you wouldn't expect. Fort Cochin is similar to Goa, in that it is "not really India." I don't know if its being by the sea, but everything is sooo laid back, the streets aren't that loud or crowded, I actually didn't even see that many cows roaming the streets, but goats:
and is very relaxing with unique ancient western architecture combined with traditional Indian. There is the famous Chinese fishing nets, a system used for centuries and requires a lot of manpower to counterweight the fish that you catch (although, everytime I walked by it seemed they caught like 10 fish. Thats just me though!):
And then rhere is St. Francis Church, what is said to be the oldest European-built church in India. It was built by a portuguese guy in the 15th century. And by the way, fast fact, did you know that Vasco de Gama was buried there for 14 years before being moved to Lisbon, Portugal? He actually died in Cochin and his tombstone is still in the church:
Which, speaking of Vasco de Gama, on my little tourist map, it 'highlighted' Vasco de Gama Square, which I was looking forward to seeing because I loove European squares (especially in Spain) because they are so full of life, but here... well, it literally was a plain old boring open space with a few vendors. Hmm.... oh well!
So since Fort Cochin has the most concentration of diverse religious establishments, I had to check out the impressive catholic Santa Cruz Basilica,
Jew town, with its 16th century synangogue (which of course was closed because it was a Saturday), is in the middle of a the 'town,' which I guess soon became a center to trade spice in Kochi. Its too bad I don't cook, because it really looked fun to select!
and the muslim quarter:
It really has it all! Lucky its small enough that everything is easily walkable. Fort Cochin is really cute!
So, I hate to admit it, but I am about to leave Kerala without doing the 'thing-to-do,' a backwaters tour. Kerala has something like 900km of waterways and boats are rented as you coast along and see life on the water as well as get a home-made special Keralan dishes (cocunut dishes are their speciality, and fish of course). Oh well... I have to come back, I guess!
BUT, I did enjoy a speciality of southern India, dosa and chatni (chutney) thats more traditionally eaten for breakfest:
The cone shaped thing is the dosa, this paper-thin lentil-flour pancake.
Oh, I'm obsessed, I know, but here is a pict of yet another sunset from the rickshaw I took to Fort Kochin. Pretty, huh?
By the way, its very very hot and humid, and keeps getting even more so as I am working my way even further south. For .0002 sec I actually missed cold, but then I thought about it, and figured I was much better off sweating my butt off then freezing my butt off!
I'm in Trivandrum now, the capital of Kerala. If you look at a map, its literally almost at the southernmost tip of India! On the west side. Its another big city, so I'm just taking the day to relax and hang out. I'm tired! So no surprise how I ended up on the beach in Kovalam! The beaches there, well, Goa is much nicer, and it was so-so. Crowded, ugly sand, and once again, same 'ol with vendors everywhere, murkey water, and then .... more and more people:
Notice, well, I don't think you can notice, but ALL the westerners are laying out on the beach on easy chairs. ALL the Indians are having a blast in the water. It was kinda fun to watch, kids, women fully dressed in sarees, everyone in between jumping around in the water and having fun. Makes me appreciate yet again how Indians are such genuine people that really appreciate the simple things in life. Its just soo amazing here! I don't even mind the rickshaw drivers anymore! So whats a dollar or two? They really are a wealth of knowledge. It is still beyond me how my rickshaw driver in Goa knew that my train was delayed by 3 hours, about 1/2 an hour before the train station attendants knew. Hmm.....
Here is another pict of Kovalam, they had these old boats lying around that were antique looking, but I wasn't sure if they were still being used or just hanging out there?
Actually, I realize that its kinda a dark picture and you really don't see the boat that much, but eh, what can you do?
So today is my last day in India! Minus a possible day in Delhi, but I might be too cold to venture out. I had an amazing time here and am soooo thankful and appreciate for all the wonderful people I've met and also for learning about the diverse culture. I love India for the character it has, and for the great personality of it and the people. Everywhere you go, its something different and unique. Its fun to explore! Talk about NO RULES and living in the moment! I like it! Everyday is an adventure and brings new and pleasant surprises.
Hopefully that will continue as I venture even further south to the great country of Sri Lanka! Stay tuned!